The Secret Behind Japan’s 2015 Zodiac New Years Stamp

What an interesting approach for this stamp design where there’s ‘continuity’ principle applied in the design although it took 12 years to see the outcome. Happy New Year!

2003 and 2015 new years stamp

Before and after of Sheep year stamps, 12 years later.

Amongst the many notable New Years traditions in Japan, one of them is sending nengajo, or New Years cards. And despite the number of cards sent being in decline, there are still about 30 million printed. For the design team at Japan Post, one of their most important tasks is coming up with the design for the stamp, which incorporates the zodiac animal of the new year, to be printed on all the postcards.

This year, stamp designer Ayaka Hoshino was chosen to design the stamp. Coincidentally (or not) she also designed the stamp 12 years ago. And if you’re familiar with the zodiac system you’ll know that this means Hoshino was tasked with designing the same animal as last time: the sheep. The design that she came up with is one that captures time and continuity. In 2003 the sheep was depicted knitting a ball of yarn. 12 years later the knitting project was complete! Whether or not this was all part of Hoshino’s elaborate, long-term plan? I suppose we’ll never know.

as highlighted this week in the Japanese TV show Asaichi, here is some bonus trivia about Japanese stamps:

  • the design team at Japan Post comprises 7 individuals, who are responsible for designing all of Japan’s new stamps

  • each year there are about 40 new stamps released

  • the sheep is the 2nd most popular zodiac animal for stamps and the 2015 postcard is reportedly selling well

  • the most popular animal is the rabbit and the least popular is the snake


(visited on December 23rd 2014)



Some work in progress from my sketchbook for FAT1 project. Started from a mind map and then continued on with visual research, illustration and hand lettering.

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FAT1 Project

For my FAT1 project, I have selected my keyword ‘Authentic’ as a start of point in this project. I plan to create a mini booklet to promote the local open market in my hometown, Sabah Borneo. In this open market, there are quite a number of authentic goods that are being sold there. While the indigenous people are familiar with the goods, there are still some (especially tourist and non-local people) who are still unaware of these unique authentic goods. These authentic goods truly represent the Kadazandusun people in my hometown and since these goods are not mass produced to the big markets, it can only be found in the open market, which the locals fondly called it ‘Tamu’.

I’ve created 3 possible spreads for this booklet, with the idea of making the spreads to have a raw-like feel to it hence the technique that I’ve used is more traditional (ie. drawing, painting & handlettering). The colour mood for this booklet is also vibrant as to represent the people and the environment of the open market. I personally feel my concept and the linkage of my keyword still seem a little bit ‘loose’ although my tutor Kerry mentioned that the whole idea is workable. I am planning to continue this project in FAT2, but probably will go into a different direction in terms of the art style.